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A group of diverse nurses are seated at a long conference table attending a continuing education course. Several nurses are taking notes, while others are looking forward and listening intently.

Professional Development: Why Your Nursing Career Is a Never-Ending Story

4 min read

Likely the last thing anyone wants to think about after passing the NCLEX is more learning. Or—after you’ve finally gotten your feet wet in your first nursing position—more training. Even if you’re well into your career (in which case you’ve likely already completed nursing continuing professional development activities to maintain your license), with a ton of responsibilities and a wide range of experience, further professional development may still seem daunting. But the fact of the matter is that professional development is as essential to every nurse as a good pair of shoes. To explore why, let’s break it down into two categories: new RNs and experienced nurses.

Professional Development for New Nurses

For new RNs, while on-the-job learning is a huge component as you start your career, professional development can help you navigate those challenges and, ideally, prepare for them before they arrive. This is especially true in two related areas:

Career Growth and Engagement: Nursing professional development goes beyond licensure and certification requirements and provides nurses with opportunities for growth and development in a field with endless possibilities. Professional development supports curiosity and allows nurses to expand their careers into new specialties, roles, and challenges. It keeps nurses engaged in their profession and excited about their future possibilities.

Continuing education helps you stay up to date on the latest workplace technology, as well as changes in best practices, disease states, and standards of patient care. Required annually in many states to maintain your nursing license, nursing continuing development can cover a broad range of issues and topics, and be part of a plan to acquire additional certifications or even degrees.

Competency translates to how well you’re able to put what you’ve learned to use on the job. As you probably know, the nursing landscape moves fast, bringing with it new treatment techniques, health care trends, and advanced tools. Demonstrating you are proficient in core competencies, as well as able to stay in sync with what’s new in the field, goes a long way toward career success and confidence.

A middle-aged male nurse is at home, seated at a desk and looking at his laptop while studying online for his certification exam. He is wearing a light brown sweater and drinking a cup of coffee.

Professional Development for Experienced Nurses

For experienced nurses with some time on the job, professional development activities can ensure you’re meeting continuing education requirements and improving core competencies. It also helps you stay up to date on the latest trends and developments in patient care. It can open opportunities for advancement in your career. Additional nursing certifications, qualifications, and degrees—such as completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)—can lead to promotions on the job or, if you feel stuck in your current position, open the doors to a host of new career categories, including management, leadership, administrative, specialty, or education.

Who to Talk to About Your Professional Development Needs

Professional development plans for nurses both new and experienced are never a one-size-fits-all proposition. Luckily, when it comes to figuring out the best path toward either meeting your requirements or attaining (or even deciding on) your professional goals, you probably already know the person to go to with questions. Nursing professional development (NPD) practitioners work in a number of health care system practice and clinical settings, schools, associations, and other areas of care. Knowledgeable in adult learning principles, evidence-based and critical thinking, career development, continuing education, leadership, and other important areas of nursing education and practice, these educators have probably already helped you along the way to where you are right now in your career. What’s important to remember is that they are available to help you with the next step in your career, as well as keep your footing when it comes to maintaining competencies in your current role.

The Bottom Line: Better Care

Nursing professional development is essential to better patient care. The treatment landscape continues to evolve at a breakneck pace and keeping up with it is part of the job. Nursing professional development enhances quality, increases engagement efforts in lifelong learning and empowers nurses to lead the charge in advancing health and wellness.

Images sourced from Getty Images

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